tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 20, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
on the broadcast tonight, what did he mean on public schools, prenatal testing, the president's faith? rick santorum said a lot of things over the weekend. now tonight there is a lot of talk about what he meant. pumped up. the skyrocketing cost of gas at home. the question is why now and where does it top off? the growing threat over iran. the u.s. warns israel not to attack, but what if israel doesn't listen? avalanche. tragedy on a mountain near a popular resort. several skiers are dead. one survived. tonight she's telling the story about what she said saved her life. and rocket man. the american hero who, 50 years
ago today made the nation stop and look up. we have been looking up to him ever since. we have been looking up to him ever since. "nbc nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. it's become part of this election cycle. we have all watched as candidates have risen to the front-runner status in the gop race. that means more money, bigger crowds and more scrutiny. for rick santorum who right now is receiving all of that coming off victories in three of the last four contests this was a weekend of wide-ranging remarks followed by some damage control and clarification. after a series of controversial comments on the president, on public schools and on prenatal testing it was a weekend that left some wondering what was senator santorum trying to say. as the gop race enters yet another crucial phase it's where we begin on this holiday monday night with nbc's ron mott on the
trail in columbus, ohio. ron, good evening. >> reporter: hey, brian. good evening to you. over the past two days rick santorum has gotten a lot of attention for things he's said on the campaign trail. his every word, his every sentence are now getting a closer look. [ applause ] >> reporter: for rick santorum his recent front-runner status is forcing him to backtrack and explain some rhetoric on the president's energy philosophy for example. >> it's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. >> reporter: was the religious-sounding attack a swipe at mr. obama's faith? >> i was talking about the radical environmentalists. on prenatal testing. >> a lot of prenatal tests are done to identify deformities in utero and the customer procedure is to encourage abortions. >> reporter: today he stood firm. >> 90% of down's syndrome children in this country are
aborted. >> reporter: on education. >> the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools is anachronistic. >> reporter: was he campaigning in favor of home schooling as the santorums do? >> participaents educate childr >> reporter: since surging in the polls in states including michigan, rick santorum plays to bigger crowds and more scrutiny about his perspective. his take on the president's energy agenda was interpreted as a knock on the president's christianity was rebuked by the obama campaign. >> it's time to get rid of the mind set that if we disagree we have to question character and faith. >> reporter: while leading mitt romney in a number of polls santorum lags behind with women voters though santorum's message of social conservativism is resonating with the base. >> he's a disciplined guy.
he knows what he believes. that's key. he's awuthentauthentic. >> reporter: meantime, governor romney was back after a weekend off. rather than hitting santorum on the social debates, romney stuck to criticizing him on fiscal issues. nevertheless, mitt romney and the other two candidates in the race -- newt gingrich and ron paul -- may be asked to weigh in at wednesday's arizona debate. it is the only debate before those important primaries here in ohio and michigan next week and super tuesday on march 6. brian? >> ron mott starting us off from columbus tonight. ron, thanks. in a development that could have big political ramifications, gas prices are at the highest levels ever for this time of year. up 25 cents a gallon on average since the beginning of 2012. the white house pushed back on gop criticism that environmental rules are at fault noting the u.s. oil and gas production is surging. nbc's miguel almaguer is with us from l.a. tonight where prices
are surging right now. migu miguel, good evening. >> reporter: brian, good evening. it's usually memorial day, presidents' day. while it's not the norm it is a bellwether. pain at the pump. >> it's probably $10 more a tank than it was last week. >> reporter: the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline now tops $4 a gallon. this station getting close to $5. commuters have never seen prices so high so early in the year. patience is running on empty. >> i'm going to start riding a bike if it goes higher than that. >> reporter: californians aren't the only ones emptying their wallet to fill up the tank. on the east coast prices are surging toward $4 a gallon. parts of the midwest hovering near $3.50. no state is lower than wyoming at $3.03. in hawaii they spend nearly
$4.25. analysts say three reasons are driving the early spike at the pump. >> the perfect storm, the juggernaut we are facing in rising gas prices is, one, the geopolitical issues in iran and elsewhere. the second would be investors and speculators who are clearly trying to buy oil and own it. third would be a number of refinery closings that are going on on the east coast. >> reporter: adding to the problems, a fire at a washington state refinery, a key west coast supplier, drove up prices overnight. >> it's going to hurt. painful. will force us to make tough choices around the dinner table about what we can do with the money we have. >> reporter: looks like we'll be in for a long summer. we could see the most expensive gas prices later this summer. experts say it's not whether gas will hit $5 a gallon for regular unleaded but how soon. brian? >> miguel, thanks. now to the growing tensions
over iran. a component of this actually as u.n. nuclear inspectors return to that country, the question fuelling high anxiety in washington and around the world is will israel attack iran's nuclear program. the u.s. is working hard to try to make sure that doesn't happen, but israel may not be on the same page. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell is in our d.c. newsroom. you and i have been told by mostly different officials, some of them the same, that every time we see a delegation from the u.s. fly to israel it's because this has reached another critical point in pressing their case. here we are again. >> reporter: here we are again indeed. the administration is back to reshuffling back and forth to israel almost pleading with officials there not to attack iran, arguing that economic pressure has finally gotten tehran to agree to nuclear talks. in tehran, tel aviv and washington, high stakes
diplomacy to try to prevent a military confrontation that could engulf the middle east. tom donaldan is telling benjamin netanyahu not to attack iran. for the second time this month u.n. nuclear inspectors are in iran. >> we hope to have good days in tehran. >> reporter: the pentagon is saying what the generals are telling israel. >> a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their long-term objectives. we are of the opinion that the iranian regime is a national actor. for that reason, i think we think the current path we are on is the most prudent path at this point. >> reporter: prime minister netanyahu and president obama who have had a bumpy relationship will meet again at the white house in two weeks. >> it is clear the administration doesn't want to see military action. better not risk the consequences of this action when there is still time to allow these pressures to build and to
persuade the iranians not to weap weaponize. >> reporter: how would they strike? there are three routes. the least likely is through turkey or israeli jets could fly south over saudi arabia, but it wouldn't be quick or easy. israel would have to fly 1,000 miles carrying 5,000-pound bombs to penetrate iran's underground nuclear facilities. refuelling mid-air would be a challenge. but israel could be counting on the u.s. coming to its aid. >> they may be counting on this triggering a wider war watith t iranians overreacting against the saudis, the u.s. armed forces, turning off oil out of the gulf. it may be a political calculation by the israelis. >> reporter: the u.s. is warning israel that military action may not work. iran's nuclear program could survive an attack, but israel
said its survival is at stake and doesn't believe diplomacy and economic pressure can stop iran from going nuclear if it decides to. >> andrea mitchell, thanks. we have an update on syria. the violent situation is rapidly deteriorating will. there are growing concerns that outside players are trying to take advantage of it now and growing fears for a real bloodbath as the regime pushes back hard. we have seen it before. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is on the border between syria and turkey. he was able to join us via a small portable satellite dish. good evening. >> reporter: good evening. the syrian opposition's immediate concern is a massacre in the city of homs which has been surrounded for over two weeks. it's been shelled from the outside. now the opposition worries that syrian troops will storm the center of the city. but the conflict in syria is no longer just a local affair.
outside parties are becoming increasingly involved. russia, china, iran, hezbollah, iraqi shiite militia groups are all backing the syrian regime. russia has been arming the syrian government. the united states has been observing syria from drones, but u.s. officials say they don't see any clear options in this entrenched, bloody, proxy war. >> richard, thanks. back in this country, a quick weather note. the snow has moved out to sea but the mess remains across the mid south. as much as nine inches in kentucky, tennessee, parts of virginia, west virginia, the carolinas causing lots of trouble on the road. hundreds of accidents. power outages, school closings reported. for good measure there is a huge storm moving east from the kansas/missouri border. still ahead as we continue on this holiday monday night,
skiing out of bounds, swept to their deaths by a powerful avalanche. tonight a survivor tells her story and talks about a new piece of equipment she says saved her life. later the american with the right stuff. 50 years ago tonight he showed the world the u.s. was no longer second best in space. ugh, my sinus congestion, and it's your fault. instead of blaming me, try advil congestion relief. often the real problem is swelling, not mucus. advil congestion relief reduces swelling due to nasal inflammation. so i can breathe.
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tsunami of snow and debris, their bodies found a quarter mile down the mountain. >> the skiers began cpr on three males. unfortunately the cpr was not successful. >> reporter: they were part of a group of is it skiers in search of untouched powder. >> this is probably the 100th or 1,000th time they had been there. they knew the area well. >> reporter: on sunday as they headed beyond the ski area boundary the snow cut loose. >> we lost three amazing people. two of them were my really good friends. >> reporter: professional skier elyse saugstad was also caught. >> it feels like you're in a washing machine and you're being flipped and tumbled. it's scary. >> reporter: she was wearing an avalanche airbag like this one designed to inflate and keep skiers near the surface of the snow. >> i'm still in shock. >> reporter: that same day in washington a young snowboarder died after being pushed over a # 500-foot cliff by another slide.
it's being called the most dangerous season in almost 30 years. that may sound counterintuitive with so many places seeing below average snowfall but experts say that's part of the problem. >> the early season snow changes into the consistency of ball bearings. it's like a house of cards. >> reporter: this video of a recent colorado slide shows how quickly conditions can change. >> we come up to try to enjoy ourselves. you have friends and the next thing you know they are gone. >> reporter: hitting skiers strong in a season with a lot more snowfall ahead. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, los angeles. >> when we come back, every year you hear the oscar winners thank the academy but who is the academy really? there are some surprises on the list of insiders. ready or not, here i come! ♪ found ya! you always find me.
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zero, ignition, liftoff. >> all three big engines burning clean and hot. >> 50 years ago today, a brave man from ohio became an american hero while his wife and two teenaged children watched on television back home. john glenn became the first american to orbit the earth, the first among us to experience three sunsets, three nighttimes in the space of one day, flying around and around our planet before returning to a hero's welcome. it was all in a day's work for this modest, unflappable patriot who seemed to emerge from nasa's version of central casting. >> as the astronaut prepares for space flight, for adventure into outer space. >> reporter: he had already lived a great american life by the time he crawled into that insanely small capsule 50 years
ago today during an era when the newspapers said the united states was second best in space. >> mercury atlas is ready. >> reporter: john glenn had flown in world war ii and korea. he was awarded the distinguished flying cross five times. when you look at him here and when you realize he was just 41 at the time of the interview with nbc news, it's a reminder that back then men like john glenn grew up and grew old in a hurry and the u.s. again turned to john glenn because we were in a big hurry to orbit the earth. >> you look to the early space flights as almost being like you're going on a combat mission. you're representing your country in something that's important. >> reporter: russia scared us into action five years earlier by launching what was basically a silver basketball with a flashing light on it called sputnik. they were the first to orbit. the only rocket we had was a converted ballistic nuclear
missile, so glenn sat on top of that in a capsule so primitive by today's standards there is more technology in the average ford f-150 than there was aboard "friendship 7." >> three, two, one, zero. >> reporter: the montage in "the right stuff" is all real. the u.s. failed at a number of launch attempts and there was no guarantee glenn would survive this one. off he went accompanied by the famous blessing. >> god bleed, john glenn. >> reporter: the nation stopped 50 years ago today. he was only up there for five hours, three orbits yet there was so much we didn't know. nasa scientists feared his eyes wouldn't work in zero g weightlessness. that wasn't the case. >> zero g, i feel fine. >> reporter: he reported seeing brilliant flying sparkles. >> i'm in a mass of some very small particles that are brilliantly lit up. i never saw anything like it.
>> reporter: some at nasa thought they might be living things, space bugs. but it was just frost off the capsule. >> there's a fireball outside. >> reporter: when a malfunction threatened to burn him up, glenn got through it by humming the battle hymn of the republic while hurtling back to earth at 17,000 miles an hour. always with the great under statement of a fighter pilot. he could have coined the phrase, never let them see you sweat. >> my condition is good. it's a little hot in here. >> reporter: when he got out of the capsule he asked for a glass of iced tea. >> many have been here three and a half or four hours. >> reporter: when he got home there was a ticker tape parade in new york. he addressed a joint session of congress with no way of knowing he'd some day serve in the u.s. senate and no way of knowing on this 50th anniversary of his flight only he and scott carpenter would survive from the original group of seven astronauts. >> those five are missed. scott carpenter and i are still
around. when you've had five of your colleagues like that pass on it's sort of, i guess comes home to you that your own mortality is around here some place. >> reporter: john glenn has never been accused of lack of dedication. in april glenn and his wife annie will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary. for decades he was told he could never return to space because he was a national treasure. he finally wore them down and at 77 he went back up in the space shutting for good measure. >> it's been a fine mission so far. >> the ultimate irony may be it irks senator glenn that the manned space program is now idle. the shuttle program is over and the only ride available into space for american astronauts is the russians, the former enemy that john glenn was chasing into space 50 years ago today. that is our broadcast for this holiday monday night. thanks for being with us as we start off a new week. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back